Diabetes in the elderly

Diabet Med. 1995 Nov;12(11):949-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.1995.tb00405.x.


Diabetes affects at least 20% of the population over the age of 65. Half of these patients are unaware that they have the disease. Diabetes in middle-aged subjects is characterized by an impairment in glucose induced insulin release, increased fasting hepatic glucose output and resistance to insulin mediated glucose disposal. In contrast, diabetes in the elderly is primarily associated with insulin deficiency. The presentation of diabetes in the aged is often non-specific. The elderly have an increased frequency of complications from diabetes. They are particularly susceptible to hypoglycaemia, because of reduced awareness of hypoglycaemic warning symptoms and altered release of counterregulatory hormones. Although no data are yet available from randomized controlled trials, there is abundant epidemiological evidence to suggest that adequate control of blood glucose can be expected to reduce the risk of long-term complications. A team approach is ideal for the management of the elderly patient with diabetes. Little data is available on which to base a diet and exercise prescription for elderly patients. Gliclazide appears to be the sulphonylurea of choice in the aged because it is associated with a lower frequency of hypoglycaemic reactions. Urine glucose testing is unreliable, and capillary glucose monitoring is preferred. Fructosamine may prove to be superior to haemoglobin A1C for monitoring long-term control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors